Minister Theuns Botha

Western Cape Minister for Health

At the opening of the refurbished maternity reception area at Groote Schuur Hospital, Western Cape Health Minister, Theuns Botha, said the conditions at Western Cape hospitals are in stark contrast to health services in other provinces.

Minister Botha referred to the Gakgapane Hospital in Limpopo being in a state of chaos. “The hospital is plagued with equipment shortages, with several important items being damaged beyond repair. The hospital has multiple broken beds and a broken X-ray machine. As a result, several patients are forced to lie on the floor. There is a severe lack of staff and low staff morale. The hospital receives roughly 200 to 300 patients per day, but only has three full-time nurses.”

He also referred to a media release of the South African Medical Association about doctors at the Eastern Cape Health Department that have not been paid since December.

Minister Botha said these past weeks health services in the Western Cape have been challenged, and that management had to leave business as usual to visit facilities and assist with the re-channeling of patients waiting in long queues.

“We admit that some hospitals have patient-overload and sometimes struggle to cope, but we have clean working beds and medicine stocks and food supplies. The difference is we have equipment which we are able to use and maintain. We pay our employees. We generally pay suppliers within 30 days,” said Minister Botha.

He pointed out that the private sector had so much confidence in Western Cape health services, that they were prepared to invest more than R1 million in the refurbishment of the maternity unit reception area.

“The key issue, that differentiates this province and this department from other provincial health departments, is good governance. Yes, we face challenges, and we do a lot explaining in the media, but we have financial discipline, efficiency, equality, modernization, monitoring and evaluation. That is why we have medicine stocks, and food provisions, and employers who get paid at the end of the month,” said Minister Botha.

The lesson we have learned in the Western Cape is that we can improve healthcare for everyone by strengthening the positive elements of the public sector and removing its deficiencies on a planned and sustained basis. Our policies in the Western Cape are working to achieve this at a provincial level. There is no reason why these strategies cannot work for the rest of the country as well.

So what do we do differently? We estimate that 4, 58 million people in this province out of a total estimated population of 5, 8 million depend on our health services. In order to run such a system successfully, it must be run on sound business principles.

We believe the functioning of hospitals must not be seen in isolation and that they must function integrally as part of the bigger health system. What happens within them is inextricably linked to what happens outside of them, be it in other parts of the health service or within society more broadly.

The Department has therefore created structures and processes to tangibly link hospitals with the district health system and primary health care service. There are also structures and a systematic process within provincial government to enable inter-sectoral collaboration with other role players both within broader government as well as in civil society to address upstream factors that impact on the health status of the population and the burden of disease that impacts on the patient load of hospitals and of the health services more generally.

Photograph taken at the official opening of the refurbished maternity reception area at Groote Schuur hospital. From left is Clicks managing director, Michael Harvey, matron Jawahir Harris, Western Cape Health Minister Theuns Botha, and Dr. Dilwahab Barday of the hospital facility board.

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